Modern Software Experience




Family History Catalogue 2.0 is an upcoming FamilyLink website. Paul Allen recently mentioned the site in several tweets. Geneablogger Mark Tucker guessed that it might the website for the Family History Catalogue 2.0 that had been mentioned in the past, and Paul Allen commented on his blog post to confirm that.

googling and guessing

There is a bit more information in some of Paul Allen’s tweets, and there is a job posting on the new corporate site for Chief Genealogy Officer for
Paul Allen seemed unwilling to reveal more. That’s understandable for a work in progress, but it is amazing how much a little bit of investigative journalism, nothing more than some googling and guessing, will uncover.

public information

There is a lot that is public already. If you follow me on twitter, or read Mark Tucker’s blog post, you will have noticed my question about Let’s start with that. was an independent Australian website by Jenny Williams Fawcett. It offered categorised links to Australian genealogical resources.

On 2006 Dec 12, Jenny Fawcett posted a message stating that the site would be offline for a month or so. A 2008 Mar 23 message by her mother explains that the return of the site has been held back by illnesses and that Jenny had no access yet, because she moved and is waiting for Telstra to connect her phone cables.
Meanwhile, the 2006 is available in the Internet Archive. was another link collection. The pages in the Internet Archive show a page with several banner adds and many links directed through or "Commission Junction".

If you visit today, you will see a page with the heading Genseek is coming soon.... (Yes, that is four dots instead of three dots or one ellipsis. don’t blame me, I am just quoting). coming soon


That FamilyLink owns is no secret. Paul Allen mentioned it in a 2008 Nov 5 presentation and tweeted about it the next day.

2008-11-06 16:41 paulballen Breakfast meeting re: deployment of best search engine technology I have ever seen on and the forthcoming

Paul’s first tweet about GenSeek went largely unnoticed, but when he kept tweeting about it during his visit to the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations (AFFHO) Congress in New Zealand, he got some questions.

2009-01-18 19:29 paulballen 7:30 am in Auckland. Getting ready for day 4 of genealogy conference. Will show GenSeek, and today.

2009-01-29 02:51 paulballen Nearly all the genealogists we meet are enthusiastic about GenSeek and want to help us make it the world’s gateway to family history content

Those two remarks prompted three questions.

2009-01-19 03:53 marcktucker Where can I find out more information about GenSeek?

2009-01-19 10:49 TamuraJones @paulballen FamilyLink has the domain. Australians probably think of Jenny’s first. Will that return on

2009-01-19 11:34 Dave_Whittle Hi, Paul. So what will set GenSeek apart from the crowd?

Paul Allen answered only one question.

2009-01-19 23:31 paulballen @marktucker will be coming out in the next 2 months or so. Until then, we could email you a powerpoint, but That’s about it.

Paul Allen seemed unwilling to tell more, but tweeted a brief description two days later.

2009-01-21 20:40 paulballen Starting job description for "chief genealogy officer" who will help manage GenSeek--directory of all the world’s genealogy sources.

That tweet seems to answer the other two questions. According to that tweet, GenSeek will be a directory of all the world’s genealogy sources.
Put like that, it sounds like GenSeek will directly compete with sites such as Cyndi’s List, Linkpendium and WeRelate. That may even be the intention, but the initial GenSeek will be more like WorldCat.

Family History Library Catalogue 2.0

In between those two tweets, Mark had blogged his speculation that GenSeek is the domain on which FamilyLink will host its upcoming Family History Library Catalogue 2.0, and Paul Allen had left a comment confirming that guess; the GenSeek domain will be used for the Family History Library Catalogue 2.0.

That immediately tells us a lot more. Not only had Paul already blogged about Family History Library Catalogue 2.0, there is even a press release about it.

Family History Library Catalogue 2.0

On 2008 May 14, FamilyLink and FamilySearch announced a partnership to publish the Family History Library Catalogue in web 2.0 fashion:

This means that individual genealogists, librarians, archivists, and others from around the world will be able, when the Catalog 2.0 comes online in the coming months, to enhance and extend the value of the catalog. Users will be able to add new sources that are currently in the library catalog, and thus extend its scope of coverage. They will be able to improve the source descriptions, and even rate and review sources as to their usefulness.

The Family History Library Catalogue 2.0 project is not about bringing the Family History Library Catalogue online. The Family History Library Catalogue is online already.

Family History Library Catalogue

The Family History Library Catalogue 2.0 project is about adding web 2.0 features, enabling visitors to comment and contribute.


Something that Paul Allen does not mention in his blog post, but is mentioned in the FamilySearch press release, and is perhaps more important than any other feature, is that the new web site will be constructed in such a manner that major search engines will be able to index it all.

Today, the Family History Library Catalogue is part of the so-called deep web. You have to know that the Family History Library Catalogue exists, you have to know where to find it (link below) and then perform your search through its interface.

Once all the content is indexed in major search engines, you do not need to know it exists, you do not have to know where to find, and are not limited to searching on particular fields. Once the catalogue is fully indexed, you are simply likely to come across the catalogue when performing a search.


GenSeek team

On 2008 Oct 17, user mcgowan posted the entire FamilyLink organisation chart on That same chart shows that there are two McGowan working at FamilyLink.

McGowan FamilyLink Org Chart

Anyway, mcgowan’s org chart shows the GenSeek team to consist of four people:

The job title of one of the developers indicates that GenSeek is being built using Microsoft .NET technology. As it is a web site, it is probably ASP.NET technology.
Gulshan Saini reports to Richard Stauffer, who was the original search engine content processing developer (programmer) for

GenSeek beta


It is fairly obvious that Paul Allen is eager to build excitement for the upcoming product. He blogged about it, mentions it in presentations, tweets about it and even demoed it to the Auckland audience.

On the current GenSeek home page, right below GenSeek is coming soon, it says We will soon be launching a new genealogy service that will revolutionize how you do your genealogy!. Anyone who has been following FamilyLink for some time knows FamilyLink believes every little step the company takes qualifies as a revolution in genealogy - or perhaps they are just very eager to devalue that word.


So far, I have shown that there is plenty of public information already by pulling information together. The Family History Library Catalogue 2.0 press release is particularly informative about what GenSeek will be like.

The one thing that remains is to take a look at the beta.

The brief text on the GenSeek home page continues with Please submit your email address and we will inform you when the site launches and keep you posted of our progress. We may also invite you to a private beta before the launch.

the beta site

Why wait when you can enter right now? Yes, that is right, I discovered that the site is accessible already. Well, it hardly qualifies as a discovery, I simply paid attention when Paul Allen told the entire world that the site is accessible. He was so eager to build anticipation that he showed the site in Auckland. and then tweeted to let everyone else know about that. Now, unless he merely showed a few slides, that statement implies that the beta site is already accessible over the Internet.

When Paul Allen remarked that there was a new FamilyLink site, I guessed the URL for the beta site, commented upon it and then did a live twreview; a review in just a few tweets. Paul Allen does not just know I did that; he also responded to it (see FamilyLink Site).

beta URL

Thus, more than a week ago already, Paul Allen knew that I had guessed a beta URL. It took just one guess to find the FamilyLink beta site and the GenSeek beta site is just as easy to find. Now, if Allen did not want this site to be found, he’d either change the URL to something less obvious, or at least demand some login password, but he apparently does not mind curious visitors. Even today, more than a week later, the GenSeek beta is still accessible to all who guess its URL (not linked to, but conveniently provided in one of the screen shots here).

Here is what the GenSeek Beta looks like right now:



The use of Amglish (revolutionize instead of the proper English revolutionise) on the current GenSeek homepage raised doubt about the world orientation of this ostensible international site already, and this screen shot shows that the GenSeek site is remarkable Americentric; The USA is the only country to have its own tab, and it is the default tab too.


Notice the Join invitation in the upper right corner. It does not seem to work right now, but the basic features of the site work fine without registering.


The USA page features buttons for each so-called state. Notice how each button features the flag for that state.

The world tab has buttons for each country. These buttons feature the national flag. Even on a large monitor, the list of countries is unlikely to fit unless you zoom out. If you scroll down, you will notice another reminder that the site is not finished yet; the A through F countries have flags already, the G through Z countries do not.

GenSeek World

Notice the button for Antarctica; it’s nice to know that the system will handle rare or unlikely documents. There are some organisations on this screen shot that probably should not be there, but it is better to list a few extra organisations than miss a few countries.

The third tab is Community. There is nothing there yet. This will probably feature a bulletin board or something like that, perhaps with special hooks into the catalogue to make it easier to discuss things.

search results

The site is unfinished, but it does contain data and is operational. I typed in New York and got a result page.

GenSeek New York Search

item screen

I clicked the first result, and got to a page describing this particular document.

GenSeek New York item

Notice the various options on the Next Steps bar: Create Citation, Order Film, Sponsor Scanning, Sponsor Indexing, and, last but not least, Notify me when this source is online - now That’s an option I like.

The user comments on the right side of the screen seem to be dummies. I got to see these same two comments for every item I viewed.

Notice the Edit and Community tabs above the Next Steps bar. These are still inactive, but they are what GenSeek, also know as the Family History Library Catalogue 2.0 is about.


2009-02-03 GenSeek Beta closed

The GenSeek Beta site is no longer open to all. When you try to visit either the main site or the beta URL, it now looks like this.

GenSeek Beta Coming Soon

2009-02-03 GenSeek Beta login box

FamilyLink followed an idea I mentioned above. The GenSeek beta now has a login dialog box.

GenSeek Beta login

2009-03-18 GenSeek logo

MyFamily GenSeek Logo discusses how the FamilyLink GenSeek logo seems to be a branch of another tree.

2009-06-11 preregistration

The GenSeek home page is now offering preregistration.

GenSeek preregistration

2009-08-11 GenSeek on FaceBook

FamilyLink has developed a GenSeek application for FaceBook. See GenSeek for FaceBook, which reveals GenSeek on FaceBook including GenStream and the new GenSeek logo.

2009-08-20 new GenSeek logo

The new logo for the GenSeek site is slightly different than the one used for the GenSeek on FaceBook app. See MyFamily GenSeek Logo.


The new Chief Genealogy Officer job is no longer on the FamilyLink site.


The video of Paul Allen's 2008-11-15 powerpoint presentation at BYU seems to have been deleted.



The GenSeek site is defunct. The broken link has been removed.


GenSeek development team

Family History Library Catalogue